rainbow carrot, avocado and feta cheese salad recipe

I love carrots. But I love rainbow carrots even more. I'm not sure if it's because  tricolor carrots are more fun than plain old orange carrots or if the medley of different root vegetable flavors is what gets me. But despite my love for carrots and other rich, delicious vegetables - I still have a need to make veggies 'more fun' for others, mainly my man. In order to get him to eat his veggies, I add other tasty ingredients to distract him from the fact that he is eating something healthy. Take kale, for instance. He declared he hated kale months ago, so naturally, I attempted to sneak kale into five different meals over a period of two days. In a smoothie, a salad,  quinoa....you get the idea. Now, he likes kale. Of course he does. Next up - carrots!

This carrot salad was inspired by an incredible dish I ordered every time I stayed in Cincinnati. I spent a lot of time there during my last job. When you travel to the same place for work, you start to develop a routine and find your favorite restaurants. We all used to stay at this one hotel to earn rewards points, until we discovered 21C. The rooms are gorgeous, the toiletries are by Malin and Goetz (which fed my beauty fix and made me a hoarder in training), there are plastic yellow penguins that follow you around like Billy Madison and there is even an art museum in the hotel! But the food might have been the best part. There is a restaurant downstairs, plus a fabulous rooftop bar, so it made me feel like I was at home in NYC each time I stayed. Of the many dishes I loved, the burnt carrot salad was my favorite. This recipe is my attempt to recreate that dish, with several modifications, so I can still enjoy it now that I no longer frequent Cincinnati. Viva la burnt carrot.  #whatsupdoc

Serves: 6 to 8

Prep & Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

Fresh from the Market:

  • 2 lbs. Large Rainbow Carrots
  • 3 Avocados, Firm
  • 1 c. Feta Cheese, Crumbled
  • 1/4 c. Cilantro, Finely Chopped
  • 3 tbsp. Parsley, Finely Chopped
  • 1/2 Medium Lemon, Juice and Zest

From the Pantry:

  • 1/4 c. Pumpkin Seeds, Roasted and Salted
  • 1/4 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for dressing)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for cooking)

From the Spice Rack:

  • 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. Black Pepper

Kitchen Gadgets:

  • 6 qt. Pot
  • Cast Iron Skillet
  • Citrus Press (optional)
  • Cooking Tongs (optional)

Cooking Instructions:

The Carrots: There is a two step process for the carrots, so you want to start the boiling process while you chop, dice and mix the other ingredients. Before doing anything else, fill the 6 qt. pot about 3/4 with water and bring it to a boil. 

Next, clean up those carrots. Aren't they gorgeous? Trader Joe's carries rainbow carrots in the fall and winter, so that is where I found this lovely 2 lb. bag. Use your fruit and veggie wash to clean the carrots and lightly pat them dry with a paper towel. You can shave the carrots to make them less rough, but the boiling and charring process will likely take care of that for you. You know I like my shortcuts, so I skipped this step.

I prefer an asymmetrical dish, so there was not an exact science to the chopping process. Cut the ends off of each long carrot and slice down the middle from end to end. Now cut those pieces, ranging in length from 2 to 4 inches. Your water should come to a boil by the time you are done cutting, so (carefully) toss those carrots into the water. Boil until soft, about 15 minutes or until you are done with the remaining food prep.

All the Rest: This next part should not take too long. Start with the easiest parts - measuring! The feta cheese, the 1/4 c. EVOO and the pumpkin seeds can all easily be measured and set aside in prep bowls. I picked up pumpkin seeds that were already shelled, roasted and salted at - where else - Trader Joe's. Save yourself some time and find a package that is ready to go.

Slice your lemon in half, zest one half of the skin and then squeeze the juice from that same half. Both can sit together with the 1/4 c. EVOO, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl. Next up - cilantro and parsley. Remove the stems, finely chop the leaves and toss them into the small mixing bowl. Whisk together and you have your fresh, delicious dressing!

Now, onto the avocados. This is such a tricky step. I don't know about you, but I have a very hard time finding a good avocado these days. They are either disgustingly ripe and squishy or hard as a rock. Do your best to find a ripe but firm avocado so you can dice small chunks that will maintain their shape amongst the rest of the salad. 

Back to the Carrots: You will know your carrots are boiled when you can cut through one with a fork. Also, since these are rainbow carrots, the water will be a dark color. Drain the carrots and let them sit a moment to cool. Add the 1 1/2 tbsp. to the cast iron skillet and bring to a medium flame. Once the oil starts to smoke, add the carrots to the skillet, flat side down. Keep the carrots in the skillet for a few minutes, checking to make sure they char and blacken but do not burn. Turn them to char the other side. This is where the cooking tongs will come in handy, if you have them. Once they are all a bit charred, take them out of the skillet with the tongs and into your serving bowl. Let them sit at least 10 minutes to cool before completing the salad. 

Add the feta, pumpkin seeds and avocado and dress the entire salad with the lemon and herb dressing. This is best served immediately for the ideal taste and presentation. However, if you plan to serve it later in the day or the following day, here are a few tips.

  • Keep all of the ingredients separate, in air tight containers, and pop in the fridge. The dressing can stay assembled in a mason jar. 
  • Add some lemon juice from the second half of the lemon to the avocado. The citric acid will keep it from browning.
  • When ready to serve, either heat the carrots in the microwave or serve cold or at room temperature. Keep everything else cold. 

And voila! I realize it is not ideal to spend 45 minutes on a silly carrot salad, but the taste is absolutely worth it! Not to mention, you can get your kids and significant others to eat their veggies - I guarantee they will even ask for seconds! This is perfect as a side dish or even for lunch or dinner if you serve a larger portion. Enjoy! 

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Jessica Flatley

My mission is to provide ideas and inspiration for the times life hands you a lemon. Learn how to manage a food allergy or intolerance, whether cooking for yourself or eating on the go. Let's turn lemons into lemonade together!